How to get through summer with a broken bone, such as a fractured arm, broken wrist or leg.
Summer is a great time for adventure: swimming, climbing, biking, running, and…sometimes falling. Fractures account for 25-30 percent of children visiting clinics during “fracture season.”
A broken arm or broken wrist can feel like a real damper on kids’ summer fun, because healing takes time and typically a change in kids’ busy lifestyle – at least for a little while. To heal properly, factures must be set and immobilized, which limits activities like swimming, contact sports and even writing or music.
The good news is that children’s broken bones heal faster than adults. Why? Because kids have a dense and strong fibrous membrane that covers the surface of their bones while they are still growing. The blood vessels in this material provide oxygen and nutrients to bones for growth, and for faster healing.
But kids still need about six weeks in a cast to ensure proper stabilization and alignment. So how can kids and their parents survive during that unscheduled down time? We’ve got four tips to make the healing from a broken bone faster and less painful for all involved:
- Get the right kind of cast, a waterproof – yes waterproof! – cast.
Parents – if you’ve ever broken a bone, you remember the itchy, uncomfortable traditional plaster or fiberglass casts that kept you out of the pool and away from the fun. But today’s casts are nothing like those from your childhood memories. Waterproof casts mean you can shower without a bag and even swim! They can be adjusted to accommodate swelling and even removed to clean the skin. Antibacterial material reduces irritation and unpleasant smells. Many waterproof casts even come in fun designs, making a hard time for kids a little easier.
- Take extra care in the first week
Kids are typically the most uncomfortable during the first 24 hours, when swelling is the most severe, and into the first week when the broken bone is fresh. To reduce swelling right away, try to keep the broken bone elevated above the heart, which allows fluid to disperse. This, along with icing the injury on a rotating schedule (20 min on, at least 1 hour off) for up to 48 hours, can go a long way toward reducing pain.
- Staying active and safe while healing
Once the initial shock and pain passes, kids are pretty resilient and quickly “forget” that they have a broken bone. This is where parents must be actively involved to help kids get into a modified normal routine without putting their fracture at risk for further injury. Start by talking to your orthopedic about limitations based on your child’s specific injury and then find ways to modify their favorite activities or find new activities that keep them active. Try hiking or going for a walk instead of biking, for example. Avoid contact sports and anything that puts your child at risk for another fall, such as biking, skateboarding, waterskiing etc.
- When it’s time to be free of that cast…easy, does it.
When it’s finally time to break free from the cast (pun intended) and get back to normal, kids are often surprised to feel that their arm or leg doesn’t feel “normal.” Minor muscle atrophy or stiffness is common, and the limb may feel weak or even be slightly painful at first. Encourage your child to ease back into normal activities and allow the limb to stretch and re-acclimate to regular activities.
Broken bones are never fun, but pain and inconvenience can be minimized, and healing time can move quickly if parents and kids work together to manage through the healing process. Getting back to summer fun and finding new ways to #BeActive are always worth the wait!